Since 1 January 2002, the law relating to the appointment and duties of Churchwardens has been set out in the Churchwardens Measure 2001. Each parish church is required to have two churchwardens though there are some occasional exceptions to this rule.
The Churchwardens’ duties are set out in Canon E1 of the Canons of the Church of England, and can be summarised as follows:
- To be foremost in representing the laity and co-operating with the parish priest (including a regular meeting) in the encouragement of true religion, unity and peace.
- To welcome minsters and (with their goodwill) to give out the notices, see that the registers (and burial plan) are completed, and in the absence of an authorised minister, arrange for a suitable lay person to lead Morning or Evening Prayer.
- To welcome the congregation, allocate seats, and maintain order in the church and churchyard with the help of the sidesmen.
- To supervise the collection, record it in the register and pass it on to the treasurer, and see that all fees, expenses and shares are paid.
- To provide, at the PCC’s expense, the bread and wine for Holy Communion and other requisites and registers for public worship and sacraments, and see all is ready for the services.
- To bring to the attention of the bishop or archdeacon anything that is specially well or amiss in the parish, and reply to the articles of enquiry.
- To arrange during a vacancy with the rural dean (and assistant clergy or readers) for the conduct of public worship and pastoral care, and to look after the parsonage house and garden.
- To hold in trust the moveable furnishings, plate and registers of the church, keeping an inventory of them, which should be produced at the APCM with a signed statement of its accuracy and passed on to their successors, and to act when required as trustees of parochial trusts and charities.
- To see that the quinquennial inspection is carried out, the logbook kept, faculties applied for, and a report presented at the Annual Parochial Church Meeting (this can be delegated to a fabric officer).
Although this is not an exhaustive list, it gives a flavour of what is involved in being a churchwarden, and shows that the job carries the opportunity to make a really positive contribution to church life.